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  1. #1
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    Default Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I’m a beginner. This has been my second year raising queens – my third year keeping honey bees. So I am in no way pretending to be any kind of an expert. But Joseph Clemens has generously agreed for me to share some of my experiences using his method of queen rearing.

    For anyone who is interested this thread starter is based on a broader post about my experiences as a beginner at queen rearing.

    The Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher System

    The system that I’ve been using is what I call the Joseph Clemens System – because that is where I heard about it from, and because Joseph Clemens has proven that it works by producing very large, high quality cells and queens using this system. I have found that it is very well suited for me to produce a fair number of queens while learning skills that can be scaled up to higher production later if desired. It’s fun, affordable, and you can use it even if you only have a few hives.

    This system uses a queenless five frame nucleus with 4 medium frames of bees and a cell bar as a combined Starter/Finisher and produces 10-20 cells (more or less) at a time – and it can be used all season without having to be rebuilt. As you can imagine this is much more manageable for hobbyists than the way the commercial guys do it.

    You can use this system over and over throughout the season without having to repopulate the starter/finisher hives, and you can use it just about any time that you want without having to do a lot of prep work – once you get it going . This system also avoids the problem of having to manage a cell builder hive that is on the verge of swarming by being Queenless – no matter how strong it is, a hive won’t swarm without a queen. When I first read about it, I thought that it sounded like such a hive would develop laying workers or some other problem because of being queenless for an indefinite time. But, because you give it fresh brood about once a week none of those problems crop up – it just gets really strong and stays that way all season long. It really does.


    One of my best batch of cells using this method. I’m still learning, but next year these will be my “regular” sized cells instead of just the best ones. I hope.



    This is the setup I started the season with – the top box houses a quart jar feeder. Before long I realized that the small entrance (with a piece of excluder over it) through the slatted rack was too small for such a populous hive, and that the ventilation was not adequate.



    So, I changed to this setup – from the bottom – Screened bottom board, queen excluder, 5 frame medium hive body plus the same inner cover, feed shim, and tele cover as in the previous picture.

    Setting up the Cell Builder Hive

    The two outer frames are capped/emerging brood, the next two contain stores – honey and pollen, maybe some empty space for them to draw comb and store incoming food. The center position is where you will be putting your cell bar after you graft.

    You want this hive to be very populous, so shake in lots of nurse bees. After the initial setup the cell builder will stay strong – even get stronger – from the frames of brood that you swap in every week.

    Once a week (more or less) when you are working your other hives swap in a fresh frame of capped/emerging brood. The open brood on those frames along with the grafts and other open brood that you add to the cell builder keep it strong and stable. When you swap in new brood, you also have to check for queen cells in the starter/finisher, and on any frames that you take out – you will find wild cells pretty much every time. But since it’s only a 5 frame hive, and it doesn’t have a queen you can shake the bees off, and thoroughly inspect every frame in just a few minutes. Usually there is no need to even look at every frame – 2 of them will be pollen/honey, and one will be the cell bar. It’s pretty quick and easy maintenance, but it does have to be done at least once a week while the hive is being used.

    How I (and you can ) Finally produce Big Cells

    I tried fruitlessly almost all of this year to produce big cells like Josephs. I packed my cell builder with bees which I fed copiously, I tried double grafting, priming with royal jelly, placing fewer grafts – but no matter how hard I tried my best cells were “OK” at best (did get some nice queens though) – until I found this tip by Ray Marler: 4 days before you graft put a frame of hatching eggs/young open larva in the cell builder. That will insure that your nurse bees get into feeding mode by the time you add your grafts. My experience is that if I skip this step I get much smaller cells. Joseph Clemens produces nice big cells without this step, I think because he is continuously using his cell builder – so the bees stay in feeding/nurse bee mode – while I was only adding grafts to my cell builder every week or two.

    When you swap in the cell bar with grafts on it there will almost certainly be queen cells started on the “primer” frame of open brood - At that time also check the other frames for queen cells. If you ever let one emerge it will ruin any cells that are currently in the hive – and you might have a hard time finding a virgin lose in such a crowded hive.

    I feed my cell builder hive continuously – 1 to 1 sugar syrup from an inverted quart jar, and under the jar lid…



    …Pollen substitute. I just spoon it in through the hole, and cover it with the jar lid. This is 8% protein mega bee mix with enough syrup to make a paste that is thick enough to not fall through the frames. The bees love it.

    I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking about trying queen rearing.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Starter/Finisher; one unit?, no transferring after 24 hours?
    Cool!

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Those are nice queen cells. The closeups
    also nicely reveal the fuzzy grey hairs on
    the bees.
    There's 10 chefs in a kitchen and still not one will tell you how to boil water unless there's something in it for them.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    this is the method we use to make all of our cells. 20-25 cell cups in a 5frame nuc, or 45 cell cups in an 8 frame single...works like a charm. Over the summer we usually have cells coming out of the 5 frame nucs every week.. and when we really need a bunch we will make a few 8 framers and graft 150 cups or so.
    A government large enough to provide everything you need is strong enough to take everything you have. T. Jefferson

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Thanks for sharing David, this is most interesting.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    seems you started to figure it out about the cell size.
    I have read in several places that there are three "Modes" for queen cell building and rearing.
    Emergency. Leaving no time for bees to prepare and always produces inferior queens.
    Supercedure. Bees choose this and prepare. draw back is they produce few cells in this mode.
    Swarm. From what I have read this is the mode in which bees are not only prepared but will produce cells in abundance.

    Your introduction of eggs and Larvae would be consistent with the bees already being in feeding condition. My concern is are they in a swarming mood? It appears to me that the swarm instinct being triggered is also a part of a large number of large cells being built and tended.

    It appears to me that you method may be suffering from this later distinction as well. The bees will build and support a few large cells leaving the others being left to want.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Just out of curiosity DanielY - just how many queens have you attempted to raise using any method? Reading on a subject does not necessarily make one knowledgeable about it.

    Could the mods make this a sticky?. A lot of good info here. Thanks for sharing David. I'm planning on trying some of this as well next year.
    Last edited by Barry; 11-08-2011 at 06:51 AM. Reason: quoting

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Everyone - Thanks for the positive comments.
    Peacekeeperapiaries - Any more information about how you use this kind of system? All tips are welcome - esp from experience.

    Daniel Y - I don't really know exactly why and how this works - as far as what the bees are "thinking" - If I did, it probably wouldn't have taken me all summer to attain the goal of producing larger cells.

    This may not be the Best way to produce great queens, surely not the best way to produce hundreds of queens - it may not even be the best way to produce a few good queens once or twice a season. It's a good way to learn though. It's like a chemistry set instead of a chemical plant.

    Before I started I read everything I could get my hands on - but I know now that a lot of it went over my head at the time. Probably because of our limited ability to communicate and understand - nothing is the same as hands on experience (for me anyway). That's what this system has done for me - let me go through many cycles of grafting, cell building, and mating nuc management without having to rebuild a swarm box full of bulk bees every time. If I had to do that, I probably would have done it once or twice instead of every week or two between March and September.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    We always place two frames of pollen and a frame of honey into the starter finisher, one cell bar of grafts and six pounds of bees. The bees are placed in the nuc a day before the graft is. But then we have many colonies to shake bees from. We have placed sealed brood in the nuc before but you always run the chance the bees just might build and slip a cell in on you if you get distracted in your work. Then the virgin hatches and destroys your graft. This usually happens when you really need those cells badly. This is the method the Normans of Montgomery Alabama used when they were producing queens. Works well, as they produced over one million queens during Thomas D. Normans career. TED
    ALABAMA BEE COMPANY-A member of the Sioux Honey association -*Sweetening a golden tommorrow*

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Before I started I read everything I could get my hands on - but I know now that a lot of it went over my head at the time. Probably because of our limited ability to communicate and understand - nothing is the same as hands on experience (for me anyway).
    Very true for me too. There's a "lot between the lines" we'll never understand until we give it a try. Thanks for taking the time to post this very interesting topic. I think learning how to rear queens has made me a better beekeeper in general. It's not as hard as it looks, but it does require some bookwork, practice, and discipline just like any other skill worth acquiring.

    Good job and thanks for teaching more of us to be better at what we enjoy.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by VolunteerK9 View Post
    Just out of curiosity DanielY - Reading on a subject does not necessarily make one knowledgeable about it.
    Please point out where my comments suggest a lack of knowledge.
    "Read, Read Read" does that look familiar? If reading is not beneficial why is it so commonly recommended? Is it some inside joke to direct new beekeepers in that direction? Then all those in the know can set back and have a good laugh?

    Please support your insinuation that my reading has left me deficient in knowledge. what about my comment is not correct? In case you don't realize this either. that is another method of gaining knowledge.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Don't let it get you down Daniel. They tell me to read such and such a book all the time, but then they tell me I can't really understand beekeeping unless I work for a commercial beekeeper. Hooey.
    Solomon Parker, Parker Farms, ParkerFarms.biz
    11 Years Treatment-Free, ~25 Colony Baseline

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    This is good David.

    WRT queen rearing, the best thing to do is read, read, read. You've got to understand a few different systems, then you learn what needs to be done, and you can improvise if need be.

    I often make up a cell starter/finisher the day or better, the day before I'm going to graft. My favorite configuration is a 2 story 5 frame deep...with no frames in the bottom box (I use a box with a screen across the bottom for ventilation). Over time, I might add a few frames to the bottom (capped brood, honey), but what seems to be a giant cluster hanging off of 5 frames (with cells in the middle) seems to work great. Honey on the outside frames, pollen (you want fresh "dusty looking" pollen for this) surrounding the middle position, which is left open for the cell bars. I also make sure there is some eggs/open brood in there, usually on the frames with the pollen.

    I shake in enough nurse bees into the bottom box...lots of them, then add the box above (with the frames already in place). A migratory cover (a sheet of plywood with an entrance routed out of it), and you are good to go.

    Best to do this the day before you need it, then you can also check for queen cells (meaning that you didn't put a queen in there by mistake). I can do 35 or more cells with almost all emerging this way. I've tried queenright finishers, but have had the queen get past the excluder too many times....so I sometimes split a queen and a nuc off from a larger colony and use the queenless parent as a finisher (so I can run 3 or 4 rounds from the nuc with no problem).

    When they are building cells (flow or not), I feed by spreading a bit of crystalized honey on the top bars once or twice a day.

    Essentially, you want a colony that is/feels abundant and prosperous...a complete system _except_ for a giant hole the shape of a bunch of queens (along with the resources to produce them)...lots of ways to get there.

    deknow
    Last edited by deknow; 11-07-2011 at 09:46 PM. Reason: forgot stuff

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Good post David, along with some good replies. I attended a queen rearing class this summer and your method is very similar to one of the methods that he taught. 'One 5 frame nuc with lots of bees some frames of honey and pollen as starter/finisher.' He called it his cheater method.....
    Matt....

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    First, David, I think you are dong just fine and will eventually get to those fine top quality large cells consistently.

    For anyone else. Please explain the possible differences and effects the following might make weather good or bad.

    1. an egg that is laid in a worker cell compared to a queen cell.
    2. the difference in a queen cell that was made by man or one made by bees.
    3. The care of a larva from the moment it hatches that is laid in a worker cell and one that is laid in a queen cell.
    4. a queen cell in a hive that has a laying queen and one that does not.
    5. The importance of royal jelly or as some refer to it "Milk" In detail and exactly what minute difference are there in how it is supplied to a worker and a queen.
    6. The possible effect it has when bees have chosen and prepared to produce a queen and those that have had in forced upon them.
    7. Why do bees that have had open brood supplied to them prior to being given queen cells produce larger queen cells and quite probably produce better quality queens?
    8. Why exactly is it that bees will produced better quality queens in larger numbers when influenced by the swarm impulse than under any other impulse?
    9. It is impossible to ask bees to do a top quality job that they are not prepared to do. What do you understand is involved in bees being prepared to produce queens.
    10. even bees that are well prepared can only be expected to adequately produce and tend to a limited number of queen cells. what is your understanding of where that limit is? I have seen claims of as many as 150 queen cells being placed in one hive. Is it possible that a hive can produce 150 quality queens at one time? or are there simply going to be 150 trash queens being produced.

    Please take a moment to expand on my obvious lack of knowledge on any or all of the above. I invite you to seize a ripe opportunity to educate the ignorant. Or are you only capable of insults?

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Y View Post
    Please take a moment to expand on my obvious lack of knowledge on any or all of the above. I invite you to seize a ripe opportunity to educate the ignorant.<snip>
    Daniel, these guys are sharing some good experiences and giving some really good information out. Your comments may not have been handled with kid gloves but I saw no intended insult to you. As newbees we need tough skin...those ladies aren't the only thing that can sting. I consider myself "in school" and at the moment the experienced (and some of the not so experienced) beekeepers are my "school masters"...and I've been rapped on the knuckles a few times already...and I've learned from it. In years to come the bees will take over and become my school masters (and task masters ) and my fellow beekeepers will become my peers (and fellow students of the bees)...and when the bees rap our knuckles we definitely won't forget it nor will we feel as though we've been insulted but rather that we've been shown our errors. I'll take all the knuckle rapping I can get right now...rather now than from the bees later.

    Honestly, Daniel, your last comment is more alienating than it is constructive for you. You might want to edit it a bit (I went ahead and snipped it from my quote). It won't surprise me, though, if even with the remark that somebody, with much more knowledge *and* experience than what you or I have, will still try to answer the questions that you listed. Bee keepers are good folks.

    Ease up, man, enjoy the journey, but remember your veil.

    Best wishes,
    Ed

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    Thanks David for putting such a great post together! I'm sure many will benefit from your efforts.

    I do have one question related to how you configure your cell builder. You say: "The two outer frames are capped/emerging brood, the next two contain stores – honey and pollen, maybe some empty space for them to draw comb and store incoming food."

    Can you explain why you place the capped/emerging brood on the outside? I've always kept the brood near the middle, just like a normal functioning hive.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I think David meant that the two "outer" frames were out from the center on either side of where the queen cell frame will be placed. The stores on the outside are correct. By the term "the next two..." I think he meant the next two going out from center.

    At least that's what I think he meant.

    Ed

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    I'll take a stab at this with the disclaimer I'll always be a student of the bees!

    1. an egg that is laid in a worker cell compared to a queen cell.
    > As best I know, identical.
    2. the difference in a queen cell that was made by man or one made by bees.
    > Although our man-made cell cups may not be perfect replicas, practically they work fine.
    3. The care of a larva from the moment it hatches that is laid in a worker cell and one that is laid in a queen cell.
    > According to Sue Cobey's article on Cloake Boards, "a developing queen larva receives 1600 feeding visits from nurse bees, compared to the 143 feeding visits received by a worker larva."
    4. a queen cell in a hive that has a laying queen and one that does not.
    > Some say that queen-rite finishers produce better queen cells, but as Joe and David have shown, their cells are just as good if not better. Take your pick.
    5. The importance of royal jelly or as some refer to it "Milk" In detail and exactly what minute difference are there in how it is supplied to a worker and a queen.
    > I believe it's just a matter of quantity and frequency of feeding noted in #3. A case where "more is better."
    6. The possible effect it has when bees have chosen and prepared to produce a queen and those that have had in forced upon them.
    > I don't think anyone will disagree that anything the bees or the beekeepers can do to have the greatest number of nurse bees and resources (pollen and nectar) to lavishly feed the queen larva will increase the "quality" of the queens.
    7. Why do bees that have had open brood supplied to them prior to being given queen cells produce larger queen cells and quite probably produce better quality queens?
    > Because the bees covering open brood have the greatest proportion of nurse bees that are the right age to produce royal jelly, again more royal jelly so the queens can reach their best potential. The more nurse bees the better.
    8. Why exactly is it that bees will produced better quality queens in larger numbers when influenced by the swarm impulse than under any other impulse?
    > That's when there is a peak in the "concentration of bees, particularly the number of nurse bees.
    9. It is impossible to ask bees to do a top quality job that they are not prepared to do. What do you understand is involved in bees being prepared to produce queens.
    > Bees don't prepare. They react instinctively to biological stimuli. Loss of a queen, a failing queen, or a colony is triggered to swarm all result in a change in chemistry (pheromones) of this super-organism to produce queen cells. The it's a matter of resources that effect the results.
    10. even bees that are well prepared can only be expected to adequately produce and tend to a limited number of queen cells. what is your understanding of where that limit is? I have seen claims of as many as 150 queen cells being placed in one hive. Is it possible that a hive can produce 150 quality queens at one time? or are there simply going to be 150 trash queens being produced.
    > That's better answered by the commercial breeders.

    Hope this helps.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Beginner Queen Rearing using the Joseph Clemens Starter/Finisher

    [QUOTE=Daniel Y;724786]Please point out where my comments suggest a lack of knowledge.
    QUOTE]
    On 10/23/11 you posted Re: Beekeeping Business Planning - Can you make money in this business?
    I am a new guy and do not even own bees.

    Just rubs me the wrong way when very knowledgeable beeks take their time to post valuable information regarding a specific subject and then someone else posts that they have read a few books or watched a video begins critiquing their work. Yes, reading is a great source of info-Ive done plenty of it via books, Beesource and other sites. But until you begin practicing some of these things, then you begin to understand and appreciate the complexities of everything involved. I read my Driver Safety Handbook, but didnt know how to drive until I actually did it. Then again, I may just be cranky due to the upcoming winter.

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